As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the world, it already has a significant impact on the global economy. Not only, it has created an economic and labor market shock, it is also impacting organizations adversely with respect to financial viability.
Coronavirus has created an unprecedented disruption wherein the world is at a standstill, countries have sealed their borders and quarantined, limits have been defined for human proximity, the lifestyles have altered to mitigate the health crisis and for survival. All these changes are abrupt and have happened in no time.
The corporate world has not been left untouched and is equally impacted by this crisis. COVID-19 has impacted the world of work drastically and has put all the companies on the edge. The economy has been shattered, impacting organizations adversely with respect to financial liability for the workforce & their employment continuity. With several businesses on the verge of shutting down, millions of jobs are at risk.
The COVID-19 crisis has already transformed the corporate world’s working pattern and behavior. It is NOW that the organizations are caught up in a VUCA (Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous) situation, more than ever. This has forced the organizations to shift to the fastest gear and strategize to accelerate the transformation process to mitigate financial risks and cope up with distressing situations in the current scenario.
This VUCA (Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous) scenario has propelled a shift in organizational architecture with an all-time high dependence on technology, transforming business operation design, including redefining flexibility norms, culture initiatives, and agility in decision making. The organizations have activated “Business Continuity Plans”, driven by a dedicated unit of team members in alignment with official health guidance and government advisories.
This has given rise to virtual workplaces for business continuity. “Working Remotely/From Home” has become a mandate and 'New Normal' rather than being treated as an employee benefit under the employee value proposition umbrella. The transition from “Working from Office” to “Working Remotely/From Home” has been knee jerk which brings its own set of challenges in evolving markets & organizations wherein this option was not available for 100% of the workforce and was restricted to certain roles/levels.
Managing work schedule adherence and performance, especially for the frontline workforce in the absence of in-person supervision is one of the initial challenges for this transition. Whilst the organizations have invested in online tools – MS Teams, Zoom, Hangout to maintain the virtual connect with the employees for performance & productivity management, the lack of accountability & requisite control measures come across as few of the key concerns. It becomes prudent for organizations to have an employee communication strategy in place to manage this transition seamlessly.
The current economic slowdown and the financial crisis threat has also led to stress and anxiety amongst the employees. It becomes imperative for organizations to ensure the well being of their employees. The organizations have created various platforms/questionnaires and connect forums to assess the pulse of the employees. Many organizations have taken a subscription of virtual healthcare platforms for the employees and their family members. This app is an online platform that offers free consultation from a stream of certified and experienced medical practitioners, medicine delivery, discounts on tests, and guides on holistic wellness. The organizations have also activated EAP-Employee Assistance Program for employees to manage stress during these times.
There are various initiatives taken by human resource function to engage employees through fun activities that include after-shift virtual parties, online Quiz, Reward & Recognition, Social Media Contests, Online Zumba/Yoga sessions.
The need to acquire additional skills, upscale, and engage the workforce is all-time high. The organizations are redefining their Talent Management & Capability Building Strategies. Organizations have been conducting virtual training sessions through online platforms/webinars. The sessions are simulation-based to keep the participants engaged. The case study and hypothetical scenarios are practiced for the essence of the workshop. The engagement with the participants starts early with quizzes and self-assessments. The workshops are concluded with Let us Talk – a few minutes session at the end of the workshop to garner the key take away & participants’ inputs. There is a renewed focus on leadership training wherein customized programs have been created on topics such as “Working with uncertainty and ambiguity”, “Promoting Effective Discipline during WFH” and “Leading with Emotional Intelligence”.
Whilst Human Resource function has become super active and is on the front foot, the leaders have already started redefining their business models to contain the adverse impacts on both fronts – employees & financial risks.
Being faced with a unique situation – staying calm in the face of pandemic and mounting a response befitting the level is it, the leaders should act prudently to assess the unpredictability and uncertainty of the situation and initiate business continuity plans with clearly outlined priorities, focussing on employee wellbeing starting with putting a dedicated team force in place. The leaders should adopt and practice agility in the current scenario and take decisions basis real-time information. The efforts of the leadership team during the pandemic shall be bear fruits when combined with empathy, team cohesion, and innovation in the face of adversity.
Needless to mention, these are very difficult times. It becomes a shared responsibility wherein, both the employers and the employees should come together, operate as one “One Big Family” in the true sense, and support each other to salvage the current situation.
There is a silver lining to this, Adversity brings an opportunity, Resilience will get us there!